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Australia Newcrest's Cadia gold mine tailings dam collapse in 2018 causing concern

04:16  20 april  2021
04:16  20 april  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Tailings are a by-product of gold mining and are created when rock is pulverised to separate valuable gold from invaluable rock. Chemicals such as diesel and potassium amyl xanthate are added to the ground rock to assist in the separation of gold from ordinary rock particles. The gold is then In August 2019, Newcrest Cadia reported a worker had tested positive to a respiratory disease, but the company said it was unclear if the case was occupational or not. As a precaution, beards were banned among some workers as they interfered with the effectiveness of mandated dust masks.

The Cadia mine , which is operated by Newcrest Mining , has halted operations after a dam wall breach. Photograph: Jacky Ghossein/AAP. Australian Associated Press. Sat 10 Mar 2018 21.33 GMT. A New South Wales goldmine forced to shut down for three months last year after an earthquake has again halted operations following a dam wall breach. The wall of a tailings dam at the Cadia mine , about 20km south of Orange, partially collapsed on Friday after there were two magnitude 2.7 earthquakes in the region on Thursday. Its operator, Newcrest Mining , says there is no threat to

a herd of giraffe standing on top of a lush green field: Tailings dust lifting of the surface of Newcrest Cadia's tailings dam in April 2020. (Supplied: Gemma Green) © Provided by ABC Business Tailings dust lifting of the surface of Newcrest Cadia's tailings dam in April 2020. (Supplied: Gemma Green)

Garry Haines was out checking calving cows on November 6 last year in the picturesque Errowanbang valley in New South Wales when suddenly he could not breathe.

Thick, white dust coated the pasture he was riding his bike through.

"The dust was coming up off the grass, from the dust event that happened a few days before," he said.

"And when you're following cattle along they're walking through it, so the dust is coming back up from them."

Mr Haines was forced to abort his rounds of the expectant Murray Grey mothers that morning and attend his local GP immediately.

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Newcrest Mining says experts on site have observed no environmental damage. Image of the partial wall failure of the Northern Tailings Storage Facility at Cadia Valley Operations. A section of the northern dam wall at the Cadia mine , located in the Nevertheless, Australia’ s biggest gold producer halted operations at the mine while a probe into the causes of the wall’ s failure is being conducted by

Shares in Newcrest Mining fell more 4.6 per cent Monday after the miner declared that its performance for fiscal 2018 will be definitely affected by the breach of a tailings dam wall at its Cadia gold mine . “Whilst it is too early in the evaluation and recovery process for Newcrest to provide an indication of Located in New South Wales, approximately 25 kilometres from the city of Orange, Cadia accounts for a large share of the company’ s ore production. Last Friday, operations had to be shut down after a section of the northern dam wall collapsed into the southern tailings dam releasing a slurry of finely

"It got to the point I couldn't breathe, and I had a really bad cough.

"The doctor took tests on me and wanted to put me straight in hospital.

"I wouldn't go, so I had to sit there on an oxygen mask on for half an hour before she let me come home.

"I was on strict instructions to remain indoors and do nothing."

2018 tailing dam wall collapse

Dust events have become common for the people living in the Cadia and Errowanbang valleys since March 2018, when a section of Newcrest Cadia's northern tailings dam wall failed.

Tailings are a by-product of gold mining and are created when rock is pulverised to separate valuable gold from invaluable rock.

Chemicals such as diesel and potassium amyl xanthate are added to the ground rock to assist in the separation of gold from ordinary rock particles.

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Newcrest will next week unveil expansion plans for Australia' s most lucrative gold mine , but a spike in seismic events and safety failures has caused concern . The fractures in the entrance road are a neat metaphor for the cracks that have appeared in Cadia ' s public facade in recent years, with a series of safety incidents tarnishing the mine ' s reputation as Newcrest Mining ' s golden goose. The past three years at Cadia have seen a major failure in the mill that grinds the ore into smaller particles, a breach in the wall of the dam that holds the mine wastes or " tailings ", and a surging number of

The Cadia mine is owned by Newcrest Mining , one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. The tailings dams contain byproducts of mining and can contain materials which are harmful to the environment and human health. The Cadia Valley Mine is located 25 kilometres south of Orange in the state' s central west. In a statement, the NSW Environmental Protection Agency said it was aware of the collapse and was inspecting the site. They also said they understood that the tailing had been contained.

The gold is then removed and the finely crushed rock and chemical slurry dumped in a tailings dam.

Since the dam wall failed, residents of the Cadia and Errowanbang valleys have reported days when the air surrounding them would be thick with dust and their pastures and properties coated.

After a particularly bad dust event, Cadia even supplied crews to the Haineses to assist with the removal of dust from their home.

"It's white dust," Garry's wife Annie explains, who has a chronic cough herself.

"It's not environmental dust. It's not brown or red dust, it's white,"

What is clean air in NSW?

In Australia, air quality assessment criteria are set by federal legislation called a National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM).

However, in the absence of a federal environmental protection agency, states and territories are not forced to comply with the federal NEPM and not all legislate it themselves.

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The Cadia mine is owned by Newcrest Mining , one of the largest gold mining companies in the world. Newcrest were unable to confirm whether the recent earthquakes had contributed to the dam ’ s wall failure but said it was conducting a thorough investigation. “The Cadia tailings dams have been regularly inspected, reviewed and monitored; and have been fully certified to industry standards by independent third parties. “As a precaution Newcrest stopped depositing tailings into both dams on 9 March.

Newcrest told the ASX on Tuesday its board had approved the plan to increase plant capacity to 33 million tonnes a year, the first stage of a two-phase program to boost the mine ’s production from the 2022-23 financial year. The decision was made easier by a 21% surge in gold prices in the past year Cadia , Newcrest ’ s most profitable asset, suffered disruption in March 2018 when a wall on the mine ’s northern tailings dam partially collapsed , causing the movement of more than 1.3 million cubic metres of mining waste material. The incident led to the temporary suspension of mining and processing at

In New South Wales, industries such as mining self-monitor their air pollution and report any breaches to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), which controls an industry's licence to pollute.

After repeated dust events were reported by those living in the mine's neighbourhood, Newcrest Cadia personnel installed a solar-powered dust monitor on the neighbouring property to the Haines.

That property is called Errowanbang, owned by John and Hilde Gerathy.

The Gerathys claimed the monitor promptly failed due to dust covering the solar panels.

"I offered [Cadia personnel] full access to mains power," Mr Gerathy said.

Newcrest Cadia's representatives took the broken monitor away.

Dust and morbidity

Tim Driscoll is a professor of epidemiology and occupational medicine at the University of Sydney whose research is occupational exposures, particularly cancers and respiratory complications.

Professor Driscoll has found that exposure to dust typically involves two risk factors — volume and properties.

"The dust from a gold mine would have reasonable levels of silica, and silica is a known lung carcinogen," Professor Driscoll said.

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In August 2019, Newcrest Cadia reported a worker had tested positive to a respiratory disease, but the company said it was unclear if the case was occupational or not.

As a precaution, beards were banned among some workers as they interfered with the effectiveness of mandated dust masks.

Minutes from Newcrest meetings from October 2019, seen by the ABC, showed that then Cadia general manager Peter Sharpe agreed to the community's request for lung health assessments.

The minutes stated Newcrest agreed to replace Mr Gerathy's dust monitor and to test the pastures of properties subject to dust events.

The company conceded to the ABC, that none of these actions were completed.

When asked why these actions were not fulfilled, Cadia's current general manager, Aaron Brannigan, told the ABC that a 2020 Newcrest-led study into the dust concluded community lung health assessments were not necessary.

Results of that study have not been made public.

Professor Driscoll said the only way to evaluate levels of exposure is through measurement.

"To get a realistic understanding, you need to have some measurements of it," he explained.

"You need an occupational hygienist, somebody who knows what they're doing, but measurement is very straightforward to achieve."

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EPA fines Cadia

On July 31, 2020, Newcrest Cadia was fined $15,000 by the EPA for dust events that had occurred and affected neighbours between March and July last year.

"Even lowish dust levels can cause problems if the particles are small enough to get into the lung system and actually get absorbed into the bloodstream." Professor Driscoll said.

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Dust particles are measured as particulate matters (PM). PM10 are larger particles that cannot enter the bloodstream and PM2.5 are small particles that can.

"PM2.5 is thought to increase general levels of inflammation in the bloodstream, " Professor Driscoll said.

"That can increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke for people who've already got cardiovascular disease."

Cadia's pollution licence for PM10 is out of step with the EPA's standard, meaning it is allowed to pollute more than guidelines consider safe.

There was no requirement to monitor or report on PM2.5 in Newcrest Cadia's licence.

"Regardless of what type of dust it is, just particles in the air can be damaging to people's lungs," Professor Driscoll said.

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GP's advice: 'Get out'

Newcrest Cadia told the ABC that dust suppression was an ongoing investment.

"We've invested more than $24 million to work on dust suppression on our site," general manager Aaron Brannigan said.

"This isn't something that we're done with, we will continue to invest in dust suppression well into the future to minimise the effects of dust on our neighbours."

But despite the mine's assurances, there was an air of resignation about Annie and Garry Haines.

"I feel absolutely powerless and I've given up," Ms Haines said.

Medical advice for them both was drastic and for now, impractical.

"Our doctor has simply told us to get out of the area."

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